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Students are Knowledge Creators, Not Just Consumers

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Information literacy—the ability to recognize when information is needed and find, evaluate, and use the needed information—is essential to our higher education goals. We want our students to leave college with the ability to direct their own learning and teach themselves, especially since it will be impossible for them to learn everything about their discipline in four years.

Information literacy outcomes addressed in the classroom often focus on where to find information and how to evaluate it. In other words, information literacy skills, when they are taught, usually position the student as an information consumer. But students are also content creators—they write papers, create poster presentations, compose works of art. But, rarely are they told the story of how knowledge is shared in their discipline and why. And rarely do they recognize themselves as creators of new knowledge. Thus, it is our job as educators to make sure they feel invited into the conversation.

This week, I challenge you to have this discussion with your students—including the economics of distribution, how it affects access and, possibly, democracy. For inspiration, check out this online tutorial from the University of California Irvine, which describes how information is produced and disseminated in the Science disciplines.